Much talk has centred on housing standards recently and quite rightly – we need thousands of good quality homes right across Dublin, indeed in all of our urban centres. While there are many small developments in train there are 3 major parcels of Dublin City Council lands actively under development consideration. These lands – one in Cherry Orchard and two in Colic have the potential to provide over 1,300 homes. How these lands are developed is as important as the type of housing units we put on them.
We are all too familiar with the criticism heretofore that housing supply, particularly social housing, has been driven by private developers. Developers acquired land, contracted building companies to build on it and then sold the houses off for as high a price as possible – many of us bought into this and are living with the consequences, not only from a negative equity perspective but from the perspective of poor amenities – particularly green open spaces for our children to play on, high management fees and estates still waiting to be taken in charge by our local authorities. A small percentage of units were obliged to the local authorities – resulting in the disaster of the limited social housing supply we are not trying to grapple with and rectify.
This time around we have the opportunity to learn from the past and do things differently. Developers are not the only option in town when it comes t building houses particularly on local authority owned land. Not-for-profit housing organisations take a different approach to housing development and return – a long term, here-to-stay approach. Not-for-profit housing organisations see the bigger picture – they don’t go in for a quick turn around but rather take a planned return on their investment through a mix of social housing rents, long-term secure private rental and sales to owner occupiers.
Working closely with not-for-profit housing organisations, local authorities can take advantage of their approach: housing types suitable for mixed-tenure housing needs can willingly be built; infrastructure and the key amenities needed to create and support long-term sustainable communities can be integrated into the overall plan and built as part of the process. Not-for-profit housing organisations also manage the developments once built – highlighting their long-term commitment to the community.
Market disruption/moral regulation
However, this approach is potentially disruptive. Long-term below-market rents and more appropriate profit margins on housing sales could impact on rising rents and house prices and introduce some moral regulation to the sector. This, could have a knock on impact on developers and landlords and their potential profit margins. Dublin renters and buyers, however, would be less concerned about affordability and possible homelessness.
Dare we move beyond the norm to date and demand an approach that will provide maximum housing return to our local authorities and to the citizens of Dublin?
If there is a will, there is a way!